Does your family have a minor medical emergency plan?
Lily twisted her ankle on a trampoline yesterday. The kids were jumping with basketballs on the tramp (obviously not the smartest) and she came down on one of them. She and Ben heard a loud pop and she fell down in serious pain. I knew it was pretty bad because Lily doesn’t typically carry on much and it was swelling fast. After a trip to the Highland Health Clinic I am happy to say it is just a bad sprain… not a break. I am also glad I didn’t rush her to the expensive emergency room… but I had already learned that lesson the hard way.
In the Fall of 2007, the elementary school called. Ben had fallen off the monkey bars and they suspected a broken arm. My husband picked him up and I met him at the Hospital Emergency Room- because that’s where you go for a broken arm, right? Oh boy, was I wrong.
After a long (hours) wait in the lobby, they finally got us back to see a Doctor. He examined Ben for 5 minutes and ordered an x-ray. We waited for another very long time and finally heard… it was a broken Humerus (not so humorous.). But the bone had broken at the very top of his arm, kind of like having an ice cream fall of the cone, and it could not be put in a cast. The nurse gave Ben in a sling and swath (a wrap to keep his arm against his body) and told us to make an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon.
About a month later, I got a bill from the hospital for almost $600- my portion after insurance (gulp.) I also got two other smaller bills- one for the x-ray and the other from the Radiologist. Hmmm- 5 minutes with a Doc, an x-ray, and a sling… doesn’t sound like we got a very good deal here.
So I started asking around. I talked to our Pediatrician and I spoke with friends. Had I made a mistake? Was there a better option than taking Ben to the Emergency Room?
After some research, I discovered that I could have taken him to the Highland Health Clinic- an InstaCare and Family Practice combined. They have an x-ray machine and can handle many minor injuries. I also checked out the Doctors and discovered that Dr. Carroll in the family practice is fairly young but very competent. And the best part is… if I call to make an appointment I would pay a $25 co-pay. For a “can’t wait to make an appointment emergency” the InstaCare copay costs $50.
Several months after Ben’s accident, Lily took a tumble off of the counter and landed on her wrist. By the next morning I was worried it was more than a just a bruise. But having done the research, I called Highland Health to make an appointment. They got her in right away. We waited in the waiting room for 5 or 10 minutes. Dr. Carroll was personable and gentle with Lily and his nurse walked us across the hall for an x-ray. Sure enough she had fractured her wrist. Because the bone was set and the swelling was minor, he put the cast on and we were on our way in no time. And I paid a $25 dollar co-pay for everything.
This was a long story… but I hope it is worth reading. By doing a little research ahead of time, I could have saved our family a lot of time and money. “Make it Do” means handling emergencies by being prepared and informed ahead of time. There are some emergencies where the Emergency Room is still the best place to go… if my child had bones sticking out of the skin for instance (phew, I haven’t seen that one!) or for clearly crooked limbs that’s where I would head. But for minor things, it’s a trip to Highland Health for our family… and a much pleasanter and much, much more affordable option.
Now please, please don’t think I would presume to give medical advice! But take my practical advice: Talk to your doctor, read your insurance manual and figure out your best options before you have an emergency. Because by the nature of an emergency you don’t have a lot of time to figure out the smartest plan. Having a medical problem can be devastating to a tight budget… but with a little forethought you can sometimes minimize the impact.
Also one last thought: If you don’t have insurance, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. A friend who doesn’t have insurance said her bills have been cut as much as half by the doctor because she asked for help. Also, about that $600 hospital bill I received, I made phone calls and sent letters complaining that the bill was way too high considering the amount of treament given. The hospital did reduce the bill, but not after a lot of work on my part.